August 16, 2007

TechCrunch's Celebrating Failure Doesn't Help Anyone

Though the argument could be made that for all of the breathlessness that follows the debut of Web companies and services, there should be an equal amount of noise on the down side when some of them fail to meet expectations, I don't quite understand the seeming excitement around seeing others struggle or even close their doors. Today, TechMeme and the blogosphere are abuzz over two prominent Web 2.0 companies, Technorati and PodTech, who saw changes at the executive level, and much of it is seemingly celebratory. And that makes no sense at all.

The news you likely already know. At Technorati, David Sifry, after previously stating there was a search for a candidate to replace him at CEO, announced he would move to a board-only role. Meanwhile, PodTech, home of well-renowned "on sabbatical" blogger Robert Scoble, promoted from within, giving the COO the CEO position.

Change happens. It's a well-known industry norm that startup companies see change as they grow. Founders often first move from CEO positions to "strategic" positions, and then later, out of the picture. But to see some talk about it, you'd think that as this change occurs, that it's an opportunity to pile on and throw dirt on those who were often the biggest risk takers of them all.

Take, for example, TechCrunch's coverage of Sifry's very transparent note on his blog, which chronicled the change, and noted the layoff of eight employees:
"Sifry’s last blog post as CEO of the company was representative of his entire tenure - vague and cold. Layoffs also occurred today but Sifry didn’t mention them until the end."
Though I don't have any specific insight here, it's most likely the small (and eight people is small) layoff was not given top billing out of respect of those who just lost their jobs. No company likes to highlight bad news, and it's not the CEO or former CEO's role to highlight the very personal loss on his or her blog. For Sifry, his blog is to be about him and his company. Let those others who have left talk about the story from their words if their story is to be told. And for TechCrunch to dump on Sifry by saying his entire tenure was "vague and cold"? Where is the backup on that? It's complete balderdash. Sifry, through his blog, and through frequent comments in the blogosphere, including here, was hardly vague, and hardly cold. TechCrunch is wrong, period.

TechCrunch's negativity feeds the beast of those who like to pile on. Comments on the site said, "for Sifry, his arrogance and constant self-crooning have half the Valley clapping hands," and "Sifry misspelled “loser” with “leader”."

It's one thing for "stuff stirrer" Web sites like Valleywag to delight in presumed failure, and quite another for Web 2.0 king maker TechCrunch to do the same. Yet the site delights in tracking what it calls the "TechCrunch Deadpool", where Web services like 37 Signals, TailRank, Backfence and others are recent entries.

It's a lot easier to criticize those who have tried and failed than it is to try and fail yourself, let alone to try and succeed. For TechCrunch, a growing media site covering companies where 4 of 5 are likely to fail eventually, to delight in others' struggles is ridiculous, and I hope that the arrogance will someday stop.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree - I just wrote a comment another post saying something similar. Good journalism isn't nasty, it is professional and considered.

    Reading your blog, Om Malik, and Matt Ingram you feel the passion for this industry that Arrington claims to have but you never feel.

    I think Arrington only has passion for himself, and I would love for him to take a dip in his own deadpool for a while.